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AFRO-NETS> Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report - Wed, 6 Jun 2001

Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report - Wed, 6 Jun 2001

* UNAIDS Director Peter Piot Says HIV/AIDS Epidemic Still in the
  'Early Stages'
* Global AIDS and Health Fund 'Stakeholders' Meeting Recommends Fund 
  be Operational by End of 2001
* Editorials Reflect on 20 Years of AIDS, Look to Future of Epidemic
* Columns Weigh In on Two Decades of AIDS

UNAIDS Director Peter Piot Says HIV/AIDS Epidemic Still in the 'Early 

The HIV/AIDS pandemic is still "in its early stages," although an es-
timated 36 million individuals around the world are living with the 
disease, UNAIDS Executive Director Dr. Peter Piot said yesterday. 
"This is now, without any doubt, the largest epidemic in human his-
tory, and we are certainly not at the end of it," he said (Nessman, 
AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 6/6). Piot added that unless the world acts 
quickly and "decisively," HIV/AIDS "could spread to countries that 
have so far avoided the worst of the disease." He said that the "ex-
plosion" of HIV/AIDS is an example of "how quickly a disease can 
spread across the globe in the newly connected world," and highlights 
why fighting the virus should be a global effort (Nessman, AP/Kansas 
City Star, 6/5). Piot stated that the spread of the virus "would de-
pend on whether people had the will and the resources to combat it," 
but added that some promising signs have been seen in Africa. Piot 
said, "We see now for the first time in all continents, including in 
Africa, that particularly among the young people, also in South Af-
rica, there is a downturn in the trend of the spread of HIV." How-
ever, he cautioned that the agency is not "sure" of this pattern and 
"would not call it a success," but views it as a "hope-giving trend" 
that HIV prevention efforts are working (Agence France-Presse, 6/6).

Crafting an International Declaration

Piot said that he hopes all governments will work to stem the spread 
of the epidemic, stating that HIV/AIDS has "taught the world a lesson 
in the devastation that can be caused when governments react too 
slowly." He expressed hope that the upcoming U.N. General Assembly 
special session dedicated to HIV/AIDS will produce a "detailed decla-
ration of commitment signed by every country in the United Nations." 
Such a commitment would "need to bind countries" to implement preven-
tion efforts, educate young people about the disease and "destroy the 
crushing stigma surrounding AIDS," Piot said. He added that the dec-
laration should also address problems such as the poor health care 
infrastructure of some developing nations, "people's refusal to get 
tested for HIV" and the costs of HIV/AIDS treatment and medications. 
Although Piot said he hoped countries would address "the complex web 
of problems preventing those infected from receiving AIDS drugs," he 
expressed regret that the "focus" of the HIV/AIDS issue has moved to 
antiretrovirals, "reducing an extremely complex problem into some-
thing that is simple on paper" (AP/Kansas City Star, 6/5).

Global AIDS and Health Fund 'Stakeholders' Meeting Recommends Fund be 
Operational by End of 2001

A "stakeholders" meeting of over 200 representatives from more than 
50 countries, nongovernmental organizations and private foundations 
with an interest in the proposed Global AIDS and Health Fund recom-
mended that "steps be taken" to ensure that the fund is operational 
by the end of the year, according to a United Nations release. Dele-
gates to the meeting, held Sunday and Monday in Geneva, "agreed" that 
the "focus" of the fund should be on HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculo-
sis. They also agreed that initiatives should "buil[d] on existing 
plans and programs when these are working well" and that funds should 
be allocated "in response to clear proposals" and with a "clear ap-
preciation of ways in which they add to existing activities." The 
group stressed the need for an "integrated approach" to the three 
diseases, with an emphasis on prevention as well as treatment, and 
the need for "transparency in the way the funds are allocated and 
spent." Dr. Peter Piot, executive director of UNAIDS, said in the 
meeting's opening address that an "effective response" to AIDS in de-
veloping nations will require $7 billion to $10 billion annually. 
Filling the "resource gap" for malaria and TB will require an addi-
tional $2 billion a year. WHO Secretary-General Dr. Gro Harlem 
Brundtland "stressed the importance of mobilizing" resources for the 
proposed fund and called on private sector groups and foundations to 
contribute. She also said that as soon as funds are made available 
they should be "disbursed quickly and efficiently" (United Nations 
release, 6/4).  

Editorials Reflect on 20 Years of AIDS, Look to Future of Epidemic

Newspaper editorials reflecting on 20 years of HIV/AIDS in the media 
continue to appear across the country. Excerpts of some of the edito-
rials are outlined below:

* USA Today: "AIDS remains a challenge to science and society alike; 
a test of technology and tolerance, of imagination and discipline," 
USA Today says. Yet, the editorial adds, "Factoring the victories 
against the failures, the nation today has reason for optimism ... 
Sharp and savvy grassroots pressure drove a disinterested nation to 
create, within a few years, a vast network to battle the disease." 
However, there still exists no vaccine or cure, drugs have "faltered" 
and renewed complacency is increasing the risk of infection. The edi-
torial concludes, "The lessons are easy to understand and hard to ap-
ply. One is that prevention works, but that it requires constant re-
newal. Another is that rallying the nation's institutions -- scien-
tific, political, communal -- against even a disease of reckless sex 
and illicit drugs is also possible, but also requires constant re-
newal. After 20 years and 450,000 deaths, the nation knows how to 
battle AIDS. If only those lessons were remembered" (USA Today, 6/5). 

* Chicago Tribune: Describing years of denial and indifference to 
AIDS among Americans in the 1980s, in which many homosexuals believed 
the disease to be a "public relations calamity" for their community 
and chose to ignore it, the Tribune says, "The gay community, volun-
teer groups and the government cannot wait several years, as they did 
during the first wave of the epidemic, to face these new challenges. 
Efforts toward AIDS prevention and education for blacks and Hispanics 
ought to be increased substantially." The editorial states, "Proven 
risk-reduction measures, such as needle-exchange programs for intra-
venous drug users and treatment programs for addicts, ought to be im-
plemented in Illinois and nationally." The editorial continues, 
"Whatever the problem at home, it pales in comparison to the crisis 
in Africa," adding, "[A]nti-AIDS campaigns in the developing world 
have to focus first on basic education about the disease and risk-
reduction. That remains far cheaper and more effective than fighting 
the disease itself" (Chicago Tribune, 6/5).

* Long Beach Press Telegram: Pointing to statistics that show a 15% 
annual rise in the number of gay, black males between the ages of 23 
and 29 and 2.5% rise for gay, white men of the same age, the Long 
Beach Press Telegram asks, "What part of 'AIDS kills' do young gays 
not understand?" Phill Wilson, executive director of the African 
American AIDS Policy and Training Institute in Los Angeles, said, "As 
a black gay man who has been living with HIV for 20 years now, a 
prevalence in this population of 30% and an annual incidence of 14% 
is reason to be alarmed no matter if the number is stable, rising or 
falling." Regarding increasing rates, the editorial says that they 
"may be the result of a feeling that even if a person develops AIDS, 
new drugs will help prolong their lives. That's like sticking your 
hand in a lawn mower, and hoping surgeons might be able to reattach 
it. ... Let's hope people who have multiple sex partners ... gay or 
straight ... realize that AIDS at this moment is a slow and awful 
death that can be prevented" (Long Beach Press Telegram, 6/4).

* Newark Star-Ledger: The recent announcement by the CDC that HIV in-
fections are again on the rise among young gay men should "serve as a 
stark reminder and potent warning about letting our guard down 
against this disease," a Newark Star-Ledger editorial states. "No one 
with good sense ever thought the gay AIDS problem was solved. But gay 
men were the group that seemed to prove that education and safer sex 
practices could work," the editorial continues. "The factors pushing 
the increase among gay men may not be unique to them ... We should 
have learned from the early days of AIDS that what happens in one 
segment of the population is a marker for what can happen in others. 
We should also have learned that barriers between groups are not as 
impenetrable as some might think," the editorial states. "We need 
more research to pin down infection trends. But stepped-up prevention 
efforts, with an emphasis on black gay men, should not wait for more 
study results. Preaching prevention will not hurt anybody," the edi-
torial concludes (Newark Star-Ledger, 6/4).

* Fresno Bee: "The 20-year anniversary of the AIDS epidemic is bring-
ing us strangely full circle," a Fresno Bee editorial states. Al-
though the number of overall infections appears to have "plateaued" 
at 40,000 a year, infections are increasing among minorities and peo-
ple between the ages of 13 and 24. The success of drug therapies has 
lulled the public, including those in the "highest risk groups," into 
a "dangerous complacency," the editorial continues. "We must not be 
lulled into thinking the AIDS virus has been put to sleep, only to be 
awakened by a shock to the heart when our loved ones begin to die," 
the editorial concludes (Fresno Bee, 6/4).

* New York Post: "The battle against AIDS ... has politicized what 
should be strictly a public-health concern," a New York Post edito-
rial states. This "politicization" of the disease has led to more 
federal money being spent on AIDS research than on research for can-
cer or heart disease, although both of the latter diseases kill "far 
more people" each year, the editorial continues. Although AIDS is a 
"terrifying" disease, other infectious diseases, such as malaria and 
tuberculosis, kill "huge numbers" of people but lack the research 
dollars AIDS garners. "This is not to minimize the threat that AIDS 
poses, here or abroad. It's a terrible, terrifying disease. But indi-
viduals can reduce that threat through responsible personal behav-
ior," the editorial concludes, adding that "it's that simple" (New 
York Post, 6/4).

* San Francisco Chronicle: "Two decades after AIDS was first recog-
nized, mortality statistics are stunning and prospects for the future 
are grim," a San Francisco Chronicle editorial states. "The numbers 
of infected people are so huge and the suffering so vast as to be al-
most beyond comprehension," the editorial adds. "A vaccine, the Holy 
Grail of AIDS research, offers a glint of hope on a far horizon, but 
the ever-mutating virus is as elusive as it is deadly," the editorial 
continues. Calling U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's creation of a 
global AIDS trust fund for the developing world a "start," the edito-
rial urges the world's wealthy nations and corporations to "be will-
ing to ignore borders, forgo profits and take fast action to halt the 
advancing plague before it is too late" (San Francisco Chronicle, 

* Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: The 20th anniversary of the first re-
port of AIDS is "not a celebratory anniversary"; however it is "one 
worth noting," the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel states. Although anti-
AIDS drugs have made a "huge difference" in disease progression, pre-
vention is still the "main weapon" in the fight against the disease. 
An "even more aggressive public education about safe sex as well as 
increased availability and access to HIV testing and counseling" is 
needed, the editorial states. Calling for the implementation of nee-
dle-exchange programs, the editorial notes that CDC studies have 
shown exchange programs to be "effective" and to not cause an in-
crease in drug use. "The federal government ... needs to put aside 
politics and irrational fears of appearing soft on drugs and lift its 
ban on funding for needle exchange," the editorial concludes (Milwau-
kee Journal Sentinel, 6/2).

* South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "AIDS is on the rise once more in the 
United States thanks in no small part to complacency and ignorance," 
a South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial states. "No one should be 
lulled into a false sense of security that AIDS attacks only gay and 
bisexual men. ... AIDS is everyone's problem," the editorial contin-
ues. "Government, community and churches need to form partnerships to 
get the word out about testing and prevention, especially in communi-
ties hardest hit by the AIDS virus," but "[f]irst, ignorance and com-
placency must be overcome," the editorial concludes (South Florida 
Sun-Sentinel, 6/2).

Columns Weigh In on Two Decades of AIDS

Columnists and experts have responded to the 20th anniversary of AIDS 
by writing and expressing their thoughts in opinion pieces and inter-
views. The following is a summary of some pieces:

* "The Future of an Epidemic": "In the 20 years ahead, AIDS can be 
brought under much better control in the United States -- if we don't 
let down our guard -- but it will be devastating in some other parts 
of the world," AIDS researcher Michael Gottlieb, who co-wrote the 
first MMWR report, writes in a New York Times op-ed. In order to pre-
vent further spread of HIV in the United States, "we need more cul-
turally focused prevention programs, HIV education in the schools 
must be routine and we must treat drug addiction as a medical prob-
lem, so that drug users stop transmitting the disease through needle 
sharing and unprotected sex," he continues. But outside the United 
States, HIV is "spreading virtually unchecked" in Africa, Asia and 
the former Soviet Union, and there is "every indication that it will 
continue to do so for the next several years," he states. By 2020, 
AIDS-related deaths will number more than any other disease death 
toll in history and the "experience of suffering and death" in "AIDS-
ravaged countries ... could lead to the downfall of governments and 
the breakdown of law and order," he predicts. However, Western gov-
ernments and international humanitarian organizations "have an oppor-
tunity to mount a coordinated effort at damage control" by contribut-
ing money toward health care for the developing world and by forgiv-
ing foreign debtors, he states. "If we provide the money for effec-
tive action now, when the costs are still relatively low, we can 
minimize the setbacks that AIDS will cause at home and abroad. If we 
stand by or make token gestures, we will allow AIDS to spiral even 
further out of control," he concludes (Gottlieb, New York Times, 

* "AIDS Deaths Top 23 Million -- Still No Cure": In a Portland Orego-
nian op-ed, Herbert states, "After 20 years, we're still not ready to 
commit to fight the epidemic that will soon have killed more people 
than the bubonic plague." After citing various AIDS statistics -- 23 
million AIDS-related deaths, 12 million African AIDS orphans, 36 mil-
lion HIV infections worldwide -- he predicts that "in some places, 
much, much worse is yet to come." AIDS-related deaths in the United 
States have been reduced "dramatically" by anti-AIDS medications, and 
a "dangerous sense of complacency seems to have settled in," he con-
tinues. "Twenty years later, the epidemic is still with us. There is 
no cure. There is no vaccine. And in a world as interconnected as 
ours has become, there is not cause for complacency," he concludes 
(Herbert, Portland Oregonian, 6/2). 

* "The Asteroid of Global AIDS": "It is the People With AIDS and AIDS 
activists, seasoned campaigners all, who are forcing us to see the 
AIDS asteroid for what it really is: a complex viral disease," Jeff 
Getty, director of the activist group Survive AIDS, writes. "Progress 
made in the past 20 years against AIDS proves that with serious dis-
eases, the strong demand for survival and compassion can and will 
outweigh the powers of greed, moralism and denial. Yet, we still have 
far to go." Getty concludes, "The trick will be to get decision-
makers who are not yet affected or infected to care about people 
other than themselves and to commit to take action. Such compassion 
has been a long time in coming and may be the only true resource left 
to battle the epidemic" (Getty, San Francisco Chronicle, 6/3).

* "AIDS at 20: Power of the Quilt": "As an organizer, I saw the quilt 
primarily as a useful vehicle, tangible evidence of the suffering be-
hind the statistics. Something with which to shame the politicians 
and capture the media's attention. I thought it was a good idea, but 
nothing could have prepared me for the artistry of the quilt, nor for 
its spiritual power," Cleve Jones, founder of the NAMES Project AIDS 
Memorial Quilt Project, writes in a San Francisco Chronicle commen-
tary. Jones writes, "There was something about the process of creat-
ing the panels that was comforting ... I realized then the power of 
the quilt, not only as a memorial but as a call to action, a weapon 
against AIDS and the parallel epidemic of hysteria, bigotry and hate 
which it had unleashed." Although the project's offices have relo-
cated to Atlanta, Jones says that the quilt "will always be remem-
bered as a gift from the people of San Francisco. A gift offered 
freely to the world from a city and a community which, while devas-
tated by incalculable loss, created out of hatred, fear and despair 
an enduring symbol of love, courage and hope" (Jones, San Francisco 
Chronicle, 6/1).        

The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report is published for, 
a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, by National 
Journal Group Inc. c 2001 by National Journal Group Inc. and Kaiser 
Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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